The Great Gift of Life
To dare is to lose one´s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. (Soren Kierkegaard)
George Mallory is famously said to have replied to the NY Times question “why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?” with the response:
“because it is there“.
This newspaper quote is mountaineering’s most famous sound bite, but what does it mean?
To move beyond the “he’s crazy” conclusion, it helps to know that he reportedly also said the following in that interview:
- “… the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward…”
- “to struggle and to understand — never this last without the other; such is the law.”
And, so, it becomes clearer, in my opinion, that George Mallory was saying something important about all of us. Using my own poor words, he was saying that the high peaks are a crucible for discovering an appreciation and respect for the great gift of life that comes of thoughtful daring and persevering to achieve difficult
goals while avoiding the emotional traps that lead to foolish gambles.
But I doubt I’ve made the point sufficiently clear because this concept is beyond the power of my words to explain, and it may be beyond mere intellectual understanding.
For this reason, I think of “because it is there” as a kōan …a statement so nonsensical yet compelling to encourage a personal exploration of its meaning, leading to a sudden or gradual “feel” for the truth of the statement (see ‘Grok‘) that sounded so nonsensical at first (e.g., “the sound of one hand clapping”, “because it is there”).
A kōan (pronounced /ˈkoʊ.ɑːn/) is a story, dialogue, question, or statement, the meaning of which cannot be understood by rational thinking but can be accessed through insight born of personal experience.
PeakMind is my forum for a personal exploration of the great gift of life using the high peaks as my laboratory. Herein I have included a list of my Rules, Laws & Maxims, a series of experienced-based essays for safe success atop the high peaks, and a set of personal adventure stories that I managed to write down (see my trip reports). Please feel free to read whatever interests you; and, please do comment as you think appropriate.
Don’t let your future be written. Commit your body & mind to overcoming hard physical efforts, challenging mental puzzles, and stressful emotional situations and begin to understand the great gift of life. Get out there, let your soul breath, and feel the rapture of being alive.
I’ll see you on top.